This Is How Likely You Are to Have a Silent Case of COVID, Study Shows

Research has determined the likelihood of having an asymptomatic case of coronavirus.

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The coronavirus is continually being researched, especially when it comes to determining the amount of people who are symptomatic versus asymptomatic. Various studies report different rates of asymptomatic prevalence from as low as 6 percent to as high as 96 percent. So, what's the truth? According to new research, the likelihood of you having a silent case of COVID is actually on the lower end of the spectrum.

A recent study, published in the PLOS Medicine journal on Sept. 22, showed that asymptomatic cases actually comprise only a minority of COVID infections. The researchers conducted a systematic review of 94 studies from March to June that had data on a little more than 6,600 coronavirus patients. Through their findings, they were able to estimate that only 20 percent of coronavirus infections remain asymptomatic.

Out of the 6,600 patients, nearly 1,300 never ended up developing any symptoms. Since a person initially starts out with no symptoms, that means that an estimated 80 percent of people go on to be symptomatic after testing positive for the coronavirus.

"The findings of this living systematic review suggest that most people who become infected with SARS-CoV-2 will not remain asymptomatic throughout the course of the infection," the study stated.

Woman wearing face mask because of air pollution or virus epidemic
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According to the researchers, this data is troublesome because most people are testing positive for the coronavirus even before their symptoms begin. This may mean plenty of incidences of close contact are going unnoticed before symptoms start. After all, the researchers noted that the "secondary attack rate was lower in contacts of people with asymptomatic infection than those with symptomatic infection."

"The contribution of pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic infections to overall SARS-CoV-2 transmission means that combination prevention measures, with enhanced hand and respiratory hygiene, testing and tracing, and isolation strategies and social distancing, will continue to be needed," Diana Buitrago-Garcia, co-author for the study and a researcher at the University of Bern, said in a statement.

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The researchers also noted that their systematic review may be better suited to pinpointing the exact rate of people with silent coronavirus cases since research that only studies people at one point in time will "overestimate the proportion of true asymptomatic infection because those who go on to develop COVID-19 symptoms will be wrongly classified as asymptomatic rather than pre-symptomatic."

For instance, one of the American studies they reviewed calculated that 27 people who tested positive for the coronavirus were asymptomatic. However, 24 of those people ending up developing symptoms after their test—meaning they were actually pre-symptomatic not asymptomatic.

"The findings from systematic reviews, including ours, do not support the claim that a large majority of SARS-CoV-2 infections are asymptomatic," the Bern researchers wrote in their September study. And for more on COVID cases, Half of COVID Patients Made This One Major Mistake, New Study Says.

Best Life is constantly monitoring the latest news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed. Here are the answers to your most burning questions, the ways you can stay safe and healthy, the facts you need to know, the risks you should avoid, the myths you need to ignore,and the symptoms to be aware of. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.
Kali Coleman
Kali is an assistant editor at Best Life. Read more
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